Why international students should attend career fairs
Careers fairs are a great place for international students to practise their communication, learn new skills and score jobs. Source: Steffi Loos/AFP

An international education doesn’t end when one receives the degree. For many international students, crossing national borders in the name of higher education comes with aspirations to work, or at least intern, at the host country during or after their studies.

Yet, many face hurdles when it comes to applying for jobs, internships or work placements. As in the case of those in the US, an increasingly restrictive immigration policy is making employers sceptical about hiring international applicants for fear of footing extra work visa expenses or having the work authorisations rejected.

Local companies may also fear (wrongly) that foreigners would not fit the local corporate culture, especially if what they have to gauge one’s personality is one’s CV.

Meet potential employers in person and convince them you’re the right candidate for the job, foreigner or not. Source: AFP/Steffi Loos

Which is why we cannot emphasise hard enough on the importance of attending career fairs. Here’s why:

1. It’s good for practice

Speaking with potential employers is a nerve-wracking experience almost every time. There is, however, one way to alleviate all that fear and anxiety: Practice. Career fairs not only provide many employers for you to practise your communication skills with, but a variety of them as well.

For international students, such an experience gives one insight on how to bridge certain cultural gaps, be it as small as the type of handshake to use to major deal-breakers like taboo phrases one should never utter in front of a person of a certain nationality.

2. A whole world of options

This is where you get to touch base with the employers of your choice as well as the less-than-obvious job opportunities that you probably would have skipped over in an online job search. Company culture is also an important factor to consider before applying for a job. Yet, again, this can hardly be gleaned from its website and Glassdoor alone. Meeting prospective employers in person at job fairs provide a far better preview of a company’s culture.

International students can also ask questions they might have in person, instead of waiting futilely for a reply to that email you sent and hoping it didn’t get buried with dozens of others.

3. A dazzling place to network

Any businessman worth their salt would tell you that networking is everything when it comes to chasing deals. That includes your very own job search. At career fairs, employers are ready and eager to mingle and students can capitalise on this to expand their network.

Go for the goodies, stay for the networking. Source: AFP/Paul Marotta

Even if the job search fails, an international student can add valuable contacts to their list – these contacts could be the very same individuals who could help you find a job down the road. Needless to say, a face-to-face event beats building a network via online sources anytime.

4. Learn new skills

Seminars and lectures are common at many career fairs organised by colleges. International students too shy to ask for help at the International Student Office or from their professor can make use of this opportunity to learn new skills like brushing up resumes, interviewing skills, how to optimise online job searches, etc.

5. Land jobs and internships!

With the right impression made, it is entirely possible for international students to land an interview right on the spot, something that would probably take days or months if done so virtually.

If an interview doesn’t immediately materialise, companies can always take your resume and keep you in their radar (they even have a face to your name and a first impression, to boot!). It’s also a good place to bargain for an internship if they are unable to hire you for a full-time position.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

Less conventional career paths for social science majors

Could you be interviewed by a robot for top graduate jobs?